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Understanding Gen Z in the Workforce: What HR Needs to Know

Providing a healthy and supportive workspace for Gen Z employees

by Nikhil Bendre

HR and recruiters everywhere need to get on top of the surge of candidates within Gen Z that are and will continue to enter the workforce. It is estimated that Gen Z will comprise 30% of the American workforce by the year 2030, a significant piece of the picture that companies need to be accounting and planning for now. This generation is the future of American business, so making sure they have work environments that encourage happiness and healthy productivity is of the utmost importance. Gen Z realizes that they have options and they will absolutely prioritize themselves and their mental health over loyalty to any company. Therefore, ensuring that you can provide a healthy and supportive workspace will benefit both your young candidate as well as your organization in the short and long term. Let’s take a look at what Gen Z is looking for in potential employers!

Work-Life Balance

The key to being properly prepared for Gen Z is accepting and understanding that the younger generation looks at work from a completely different perspective from their counterparts within the Millennial and Generation X groups. There’s a totally different set of priorities – instead of making life fit around work, we make it a point to fit work into our lives. Respecting Gen Z’s heightened emphasis on work-life balance is a huge benefit, not only to your Gen Z team members, but to your older team members as well! The sooner we realize the value of our own time outside of the office, the better. With more freedom to explore our personal interests and to spend time with loved ones, we are all far more likely to spend our time at work as efficiently and effectively as possible. The core benefit of implementing this into your business practices is avoiding burnout – something that impacts employees regardless of age or seniority within your company.

Transparency

The days of employers being able to put up a smokescreen and keep their employees in the dark about what’s going on behind the scenes are over. Gen Z is, to an extent, shifting the workplace power balance. Instead of simply placing their careers in the hands of their employers, the new generation is making sure they’re in the driver’s seat and that they are fully informed on anything and everything that could affect them. Not only is transparency essentially becoming a prerequisite for Gen Z to even consider staying with a job, but it’s sure to improve the relationship between employees and upper management! If employees are confident that they have a mutually beneficial and trusting relationship with their company and that they aren’t being taken advantage of, the quality of the professional relationship is sure to benefit.

Focus on DEI

It’s no secret that oftentimes, companies will claim that they support certain values and initiatives but turn around and do the exact opposite. Gen Z is looking for organizations that support the same causes and initiatives that they care about, and not just in a performative sense. Previously, there was a wall between work and personal values, and mixing the two was not advisable. However, now that basic human rights are being called into question far too often and people are actively fighting back, these values have become a primary concern for young people in the workforce. That’s why it is crucial that you not only have DEI initiatives in place, but that you actively support them, both morally and financially, and actually make a considerable impact on your community.

Having laid out these points, what can HR do to accommodate and support them and reassure Gen Z team members that these aspects are being prioritized? 

To start, making sure your team is supported by HR is the key to retention and employee satisfaction, so you definitely need to communicate the steps that you are taking to meet your team’s needs. In terms of work-life balance, reiterate the importance of life outside of the office and that the company fully respects that boundary. Times have changed and work is not people’s entire lives anymore. Take a look at your PTO policies and make sure they reflect that statement. Something else to note along these lines is that Gen Z is much more independent than you may think. Consider utilizing a flexible HRIS, such as GoCo, that gives your new team members the power to enroll in their own benefits, view their own employee profile, access their own documents. The key here is that it’s all digital, and this generation is the most well-versed in the digital world. Additionally, understand that life is incredibly unpredictable. If something comes up for a team member, instead of worrying about the work implications first, think about how you can best support your team member. Your employees are sure to pick up on this and appreciate you for it.

Transparency is extremely easy and extremely important to implement into your work practices. If there’s nothing to hide, there should be no problem with this one. However, if there is, it’s time to reassess whatever you don’t want your team to know and ask if it is truly in your team’s best interest. If your employees have questions about the organization, policies, or really anything that impacts them, make your best effort to directly answer the question with full honesty. Nothing is more frustrating than when you’re seeking information and you can only get beat-around-the-bush answers.

As for the prioritization of DEI initiatives, this one takes some work. Have a DEI team that’s responsible for coming up with initiatives that take current events into account and support marginalized communities. Meet with company leadership to talk about the company’s budget and see how much of that can be put towards DEI. Most importantly, don’t just talk about it. As a team, get out there into your community and actively support the communities that you discuss. Talk without action is as good as no talk at all. However, if and when your organization has a solid dedication to DEI, it makes the work that you do even more impactful than before and it makes your company more attractive to potential young candidates!

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Securing Gen Z is essentially securing the future of your organization. Just be aware of the fact that this is a generation that has adapted with the times, so it’s important that your company does the same! Hopefully these tips will help you take on the next generation in the workforce and understand what they’re looking for.

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